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Rufus Benford v. Schneider National Carriers, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

September 9, 2019




         Plaintiff, acting pro se, filed a complaint for employment discrimination against his former employer, defendant Schneider National Carriers, Inc. Plaintiff's claims of race, color, and gender discrimination, as well as his claims of harassment/hostile work environment, were dismissed sua sponte by this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Plaintiff's claim for religious discrimination remains. Defendant has moved to dismiss the remaining claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (#15.) The matter is fully briefed. The Court will deny the motion for the reasons explained below.

         I. Factual Background

         Plaintiff filed his complaint on a form provided by the Court for employment discrimination claims. He checked that he brings this lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq. He also checked that his claim involves termination of his employment, that the terms and conditions of his employment differ from those of similar employees, retaliation, and harassment. He checked that he believes he was discriminated against on the basis of his race, religion, color, and gender. As indicated above, only his religion-based claims remain in this case.

         In the narrative section of the complaint, plaintiff states that his supervisor, Jack Falina, was not physically present on the job site, but that he was ordered to report only to Falina. Plaintiff had been recently hired by defendant and was being trained to operate a Moffitt Machine, which is similar to a forklift. Plaintiff said he was not allowed to work at all unless he received approval from Falina. He states he tried to contact Falina by phone for a week before Falina, who had been on leave to attend a funeral, answered his phone. Plaintiff complained to Falina that Falina had not left someone else in charge to finish plaintiff's training. Plaintiff states that Falina

became upset and stated that I wasn't committed to the job… I explained to Jack that my whole purpose for calling him, and the very fact that I work for Schneider was because I wanted to work. Jack stated that he didn't think I was willing to “bust my ass” for his account, and that he had “no more work” for me!!! Stating that it shouldn't have taken so long for training to be completed. I asked Jack if [illegible] could speak to me with respect, as I speak to him with respect via Christ's command of love your neighbor as yourself. Again Jack stated that he was “done with me” and that he had “no more work for me”!!! I asked for written decision of Jack's position but Jack declined and hung up the phone. I then spoke with H. Connelly as well as Human Resources, trying to resolve this matter. I was told by both parties that Jack is my (DBL) Driver Business Leader, and he makes the final decision on the matter. At that point, I contacted the Missouri Division of Employment.[1]

         Plaintiff attached to his complaint his Charge of Discrimination that he filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights. He states in that document that on November 21, 2018, he was informed by Falina that

I needed to “bust my ass” when on the clock. I informed Jack that I was offended by the language being used because of my religion, and I would feel more comfortable if he didn't address me in that manner. Jack stated, “I'm done with you I have no more work for you”, in response terminating my employment….
…I believe that I was discharged due to my religion-Footstep Follower of Christ.

         Defendant filed the instant motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6).

         II. Legal Standard

         The purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim is to test the legal sufficiency of a complaint so as to eliminate those actions “which are fatally flawed in their legal premises and deigned to fail, thereby sparing litigants the burden of unnecessary pretrial and trial activity.” Young v. City of St. Charles, 244 F.3d 623, 627 (8th Cir. 2001) (citing Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326-27 (1989)). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a claim must be facially plausible, meaning that the ‘factual content. . . allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.'” Cole v. Homier Dist. Co., Inc., 599 F.3d 856, 861 (8th Cir. 2010) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). The Court must “accept the allegations contained in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party.” Id. (quoting Coons v. Mineta, 410 F.3d 1036, 1039 (8th Cir. 2005)). However, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, ” will not pass muster. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         III. Discussion

         Defendant contends plaintiff does not set forth a facially plausible claim under Title VII for religious discrimination. A disparate treatment case based on religion requires a plaintiff to show that he was treated less favorably than others because of his religious beliefs. Mann v. Frank, 7 F.3d 1365, 1370 (8th Cir.1993) (citing International Bhd. of Teamsters v. United States, 431 U.S. 324, 335 n.15 (1977)). To establish a prima facie case, a plaintiff must show that (1) he is a member of a protected class; (2) he was meeting his employer's legitimate job expectations; (3) he suffered an adverse employment action; and (4) similarly-situated employees outside the protected class were treated differently. Shanklin v. ...

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